The Minnesota Wild never stood a chance.
How could they, desperately needing a win on Friday night, facing the Jets at home in a hockey-mad city delirious with anticipation that Winnipeg was poised to advance in the NHL playoffs.
Even the hockey gods must have been wearing white on Friday in support of the so-called Winnipeg Whiteout festivities along with most of the citizenry who reside in the Manitoba capital.
Only once in the playoffs since the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg in 2011, never having won a playoff game until last week, the Jets are now through to the second round, courtesy of a thoroughly convincing 5-0 win at a rollicking Bell MTS Place.
The result was as stunning as it was unexpected from the ease in which the Jets eviscerated the Wild, scoring four times in a dominating opening period, an onslaught that chased Minnesota starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the net.
Surely there must have been several cases of elbow discomfort, after all the frantic towel waving by the Winnipeg faithful in the opening 20 minutes, celebrating the offensive explosion.
With the win, the Jets took the best-of-seven-game playoff series 4-1 and will advance against the winner of the Nashville Predators-Colorado Avalanche series.
“I think when you have the opportunity to eliminate somebody you want to jump on them as fast and hard as possible,” said Winnipeg team captain Blake Wheeler, trying to explain his team’s early explosion. “I think teams that are on the brink come in with hope. And the faster you take it away from them the faster you can kind of squash them a little bit.
“We just wanted to play them hard and fast and try to buzz them as much as we could in the first period.”
The onslaught began with a goal by defenceman Jacob Trouba after just 31 seconds and it was all downhill from there for the Wild, who could not possibly crawl back into it.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 30 shots for his second consecutive shutout for Winnipeg, making even the toughest saves look impossibly easy
“I define my game like that,” he said. “I like to be big and boring and I like to be in position I think that’s the way goaltending’s going.
“I think if you’re out of position it means that you did something wrong. I don’t like to do things wrong.”
The Jets did not have the services of defenceman Josh Morrissey for the game. He was serving a one-game suspension for his vicious cross-check on Eric Staal in Game 4. Jets speed merchant Nikolaj Ehlers, who scored 29 goals in the regular season, was a late scratch.
Almost everybody was sporting some sort of Jets paraphernalia to show support for a hockey team many believe has the talent and depth to go deep in this NHL postseason.
White rally towels were draped over the back of every seat in Bell MTS Place. Most of the capacity gathering numbering close to 15,500 were also adorned in white from head to toe – including white wigs, long, scraggly beards and makeup.
Outside the arena on an unexpectedly warm day, where the temperature soared to 16C, there were almost as many people cramming the streets for the Winnipeg Whiteout Street Party.
It was in full swing several hours before the puck dropped for the opening faceoff, a festive gathering where the fans watched the game from several big-screen TVs.
Port-o-Potties were everywhere out of consideration for the beer drinkers.
All in all, inside and out, it all added up for a very intimidating atmosphere for the Wild to have to come in and try to steal a win. And they couldn’t come close, the early goal by the Jets putting them back on their heels.
“I thought we were rattled,” said Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau. “We couldn’t handle the puck very well, we weren’t making our passes in the first 10 minutes and looked like we were nervous out there.
“And they were obviously able to take advantage of that.”
After Trouba’s goal, the Jets pounced for three more before the periods end by Bryan Little (off a deflection) and then an unassisted effort by Brandon Tanev.
And the rout was in full throttle 49 seconds later when Winnipeg forward Joel Armia got a stick on a heavy shot from the point by Dustin Byfuglien that once again flew past Dubnyk.
Things settled down considerably in the second period with no goals but Hellebuyck stepped up to make several big saves to ensure that the Wild could not get a second wind.
He made a nice save off Charlie Coyle and then stonewalled Nino Niederreiter on a breakaway.
Niederreiter stood still for a second after the save and gave a “just one of those nights” kind of a shrug.
Mark Scheifele scored after just 32 seconds of the third period to bring the score to 5-0.
After Scheifele’s goal, the crowd started chanting “Book your tee times.”